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Prince Charles, Camilla to embark on royal tour that honours Canada's past

Britain's Prince Charles, right, chats with Tara-Brigitte Bhavnani, left, a Canadian dancer with the Royal Ballet during a reception for Canadians living and working in the UK, at St James's Palace in London, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Prince Charles and his wife Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall are due to visit Canada from May 18-21, where they will attend events for Victoria Day, the centenary of World War I and the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference that led to Canadian Confederation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Dunham, Pool

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Britain's Prince Charles, right, chats with Tara-Brigitte Bhavnani, left, a Canadian dancer with the Royal Ballet during a reception for Canadians living and working in the UK, at St James's Palace in London, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Prince Charles and his wife Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall are due to visit Canada from May 18-21, where they will attend events for Victoria Day, the centenary of World War I and the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference that led to Canadian Confederation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Dunham, Pool

HALIFAX - Prince Charles and his wife Camilla may not attract the paparazzi frenzy that lately accompanies Prince William, Kate and baby George, but royal observers say the royal couple's latest visit to Canada is no less significant.

The four-day trip begins Sunday in Halifax and includes stops in Pictou, N.S., the P.E.I. communities of Charlottetown, Bonshaw and Cornwall, as well as Winnipeg.

Though it will be the couple's second Canadian tour since 2012, it will be the Duchess of Cornwall's first time in the three provinces. It's been 18 years since Charles was in Manitoba, while the two Maritime provinces have been waiting since 1983 for another visit from the Prince of Wales.

"People in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. are very anxious to see their future king," says Kevin MacLeod, tour co-ordinator and Canadian secretary to the Queen.

"There is a great deal of excitement and expectation about this royal tour."

The theme for the tour is commemorating Canada's past and looking ahead to the future.

Canada marks a series of significant anniversaries over the next five years, including the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War and the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference, which eventually led to Confederation. There's also the 50th anniversary of the Canadian flag and the 200th birthday of Sir John A. Macdonald, the country's first prime minister, to name a few.

While in Halifax, Charles will bring a tradition started 75 years ago by his grandfather King George VI full circle when he plants an English oak tree in the city's Public Gardens. Later at historic Pier 21 and the Canadian Museum of Immigration, the couple will meet war brides and veterans of the Second World War.

The remainder of the tour will include speeches, 21-gun salutes, walkabouts, and meetings with various community groups and organizations that represent the couple's interests, including literacy, education, sustainability and the arts.

"A royal tour is a really wonderful opportunity to shine a light on initiatives and people who otherwise wouldn't have a light shone on them," says MacLeod, who's worked on some 20 royal tours since 1987. "That's what it's all about."

Charles will also have the opportunity to feed a polar bear at a conservation facility in Winnipeg. Otherwise, much of the tour harkens back to tradition and tours of the past.

But when it comes to connecting with a younger generation, don't count the heir to the throne out.

Robert Finch, chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada, says Charles can be just as relevant to Canadian youth as his son.

"Although Charles is older and from a different generation than a rock star like William and Kate, he still brings a lot of things to the table that resonate with young Canadians," he says.

"Look at what he stands for, what he's interested in. Things like the environment, bridging the gap between different religions, these are things that Canadians — even young Canadians — really gravitate toward."

The couple will also attend a Celtic heritage festival in Pictou during their visit and Charles will be honoured in Charlottetown with an award recognizing his contributions to Canada. While in the P.E.I. capital, Charles and Camilla will tour the city's arts centre guided by an actress playing Anne of Green Gables before flying to Winnipeg, where they will learn about another famous cultural export: Winnie the Pooh.

In all, Charles will deliver four speeches before the end of the trip on Wednesday.

Royal tours were once longer and took place every six or seven years, but Finch says shorter, more frequent visits appear to be the new norm.

"It's really reinforcing that connection between Canada and the monarchy," he says. "That's always reassuring."

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